This time last year in the world of cinema we witnessed Thanos snap his fingers and make half of the universe disappear into dust in what was one of the most iconic cliffhangers. An entire year has put up pretty high expectations for Avengers: Infinity War’s successor. Not only were the plot mechanisms of that twist setting up an anticlimactic ending (we all knew that the effects of the snap were not going to be permanent), but Avengers: Endgame has also been advertising itself as the finale to what might be one of the most ambitious bits of movie storytelling ever. I’m happy to say that as a finale to the first 20+ movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Endgame delivers. As a singular movie, though, Endgame does struggle to support its many ambitions. This is a movie that is trying to do a lot and some things work better than others.
Avengers: Endgame picks up in the immediate aftermath of Infinity War as the Avengers try to regroup and strike a counterattack against Thanos. Other than a fast moving opening fifteen minutes or so Endgame really tries to distance itself from its predecessor. From a storytelling structure perspective this movie is way different than Infinity War. It’s obviously darker, but whereas Infinity War was a momentum-fuelled race to its conclusion, Endgame is a much more character driven affair that tries to reinvent itself multiple times throughout its three-hour runtime. This is a much more clunky affair as we watch a movie that acts as a dark drama (featuring some of Robert Downey Jr.’s best work yet and some killer comedic work from Chris Hemsworth) before suddenly deciding it wants to be a comedic sci-fi adventure (this is the best portion of the movie as the filmmakers unveil the cinematic version of a love letter to this entire series) before once again deciding it wants to be a CGI heavy but emotional war movie.
The heavier focus on character and this all over the place storyline also means the treatment of the characters is also a mixed bag. Captain America (Chris Evans in his best performance in this role) and Iron Man are treated like rock stars in this movie, and the movie really knows how to get the most out of the comedic appeal of Thor, Rocket and the Hulk. However, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is just not given enough attention for her arc to have the effect that the movie wants it to have. Additionally, Captain Marvel’s much-hyped introduction into the Avengers storyline is a big letdown as she ends up being an annoying deus ex machina. Anytime she shows up the good guys instantly get a leg up and all stakes go flying out the door. Karen Gillan, however, surprisingly gets a lot to do as Nebula. The way that her story draws out is almost enough to make up for screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s failure to give little impact to the rest of the female characters.
As the movie approaches its end I was quite shocked to see how well this movie handles the cliffhanger of the previous movie. That cliffhanger still has weight as this movie concludes. Additionally, this movie itself does have a sense of finality to it. There will certainly be more Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, but multiple character arcs conclude in a way that I have a hard time seeing there being a next time for them.
Avengers: Endgame is a glorious mess. Its insane ambition gets in the way of itself sometimes, but it’s quite hard not to enjoy this movie.